Morris dancing is a form of English country dancing from the Cotswold region of England with strong links to traditional rituals and seasonal events. Morris is often danced in conjunction with those events. Some Morris teams (or “sides”) are all women, some all men and some mixed (co-ed) men and women. Some people believe that Morris dancing is linked to fertility rituals of the seasons. Others believe it has roots in a more pagan past.
Morris dancing is danced in America not so much as a ritual dance but as a fun activity and a performance art. Morris dance groups, called sides, dance traditional and newly created dances in what are called “sets.” A team will typically dance in a few traditions, a particular style of dancing that comes from a specific village. Newly created dances are also often influenced by a particular tradition.
Teams develop a particular style and also wear a particular “kit” (or costume) in the same way other dancers wear leotards or ballgowns. A team’s kit includes bells (worn on the legs), hankies and sticks. Renegade Rose kit features black knee breeches and red shirts, as well as ribbons and baldricks (a kind of sash with the team crest.)
There are Morris teams all around the United States, in Australia, New Zealand, and of course in England. Morris dancers across the world celebrate May Day with dancing and songs. In Portland, we dance out during the summer months in city parks around town as frequently as weather permits.